Directed by Michael Powell without his co-Archer Emeric Pressburger, Bluebeard’s Castle is an adaptation of Béla Bartok’s expressionist opera (which itself featured a libretto by the Hungarian film theorist Béla Balázs), produced for West German television. Bass-baritone Norman Foster stars as the titular wife-killer as he takes on a new bride (the Uruguayan mezzo-soprano Ana Raquel Satre). At the time of its 1918 premiere, Bartok’s opera was thought to be nearly unperformable due to the sheer abstraction of its onstage action; Powell and production designer Hein Heckroth use that abstraction as a glorious pretext to craft a vividly colorful, intensely stylized mise en scène, indelibly visualizing the psychodrama of Bartok and Balázs’s take on the Bluebeard folktale. Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with The Ashbrittle Film Foundation. Restoration funding provided by the BFI National Archive, The Louis B. Mayer Foundation and The Film Foundation.
Bluebeard’s Castle is performed in German and is presented without English subtitles for the libretto. This was the choice of director Michael Powell who wanted audiences to be immersed in the imagery of the film rather than reading subtitles. Instead, Powell created limited English subtitles that set the scene and provide context where he felt audiences might require additional information.